Molecular Imaging and Biology

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 53–62 | Cite as

Sonoporation-Enhanced Chemotherapy Significantly Reduces Primary Tumour Burden in an Orthotopic Pancreatic Cancer Xenograft

  • Spiros Kotopoulis
  • Anthony Delalande
  • Mihaela Popa
  • Veronika Mamaeva
  • Georg Dimcevski
  • Odd Helge Gilja
  • Michiel Postema
  • Bjørn Tore Gjertsen
  • Emmet McCormack
Research Article



Adenocarcinoma of the pancreas remains one of the most lethal human cancers. The high mortality rates associated with this form of cancer are subsequent to late-stage clinical presentation and diagnosis, when surgery is rarely possible and of modest chemotherapeutic impact. Survival rates following diagnosis with advanced pancreatic cancer are very low; typical mortality rates of 50 % are expected within 3 months of diagnosis. However, adjuvant chemotherapy improves the prognosis of patients even after palliative surgery, and successful newer neoadjuvant chemotherapeutical modalities have recently been reported. For patients whose tumours appear unresectable, chemotherapy remains the only option. During the past two decades, the nucleoside analogue gemcitabine has become the first-line chemotherapy for pancreatic adenocarcinoma. In this study, we aim to increase the delivery of gemcitabine to pancreatic tumours by exploring the effect of sonoporation for localised drug delivery of gemcitabine in an orthotopic xenograft mouse model of pancreatic cancer.

Experimental Design

An orthotopic xenograft mouse model of luciferase expressing MIA PaCa-2 cells was developed, exhibiting disease development similar to human pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Subsequently, two groups of mice were treated with gemcitabine alone and gemcitabine combined with sonoporation; saline-treated mice were used as a control group. A custom-made focused ultrasound transducer using clinically safe acoustic conditions in combination with SonoVue® ultrasound contrast agent was used to induce sonoporation in the localised region of the primary tumour only. Whole-body disease development was measured using bioluminescence imaging, and primary tumour development was measured using 3D ultrasound.


Following just two treatments combining sonoporation and gemcitabine, primary tumour volumes were significantly lower than control groups. Additional therapy dramatically inhibited primary tumour growth throughout the course of the disease, with median survival increases of up to 10 % demonstrated in comparison to the control groups.


Combined sonoporation and gemcitabine therapy significantly impedes primary tumour development in an orthotopic xenograft model of human pancreatic cancer, suggesting additional clinical benefits for patients treated with gemcitabine in combination with sonoporation.

Key words

Sonoporation Pancreatic cancer Ultrasound Chemotherapy 3D ultrasound Bioluminescence 



This work was supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society (grant numbers 421828 and 732200), the Western Health Board of Norway (grant numbers 911182 and 911789) and the Bergen Research Foundation. The study was supported by MedViz (, an interdisciplinary research cluster from Haukeland University Hospital, University of Bergen and Christian Michelsen Research AS. We would like to thank Lars Helgeland (Section for Pathology, The Gade Institute, University of Bergen) for his advice on histology.

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11307_2013_672_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (183 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 183 kb)


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Copyright information

© World Molecular Imaging Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Spiros Kotopoulis
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anthony Delalande
    • 3
  • Mihaela Popa
    • 4
  • Veronika Mamaeva
    • 5
  • Georg Dimcevski
    • 1
  • Odd Helge Gilja
    • 1
    • 5
  • Michiel Postema
    • 2
    • 1
  • Bjørn Tore Gjertsen
    • 5
  • Emmet McCormack
    • 5
  1. 1.National Centre for Ultrasound in GastroenterologyHaukeland University HospitalBergenNorway
  2. 2.Department of Physics and TechnologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.Centre de Biophysique MoléculaireOrléans Cedex 2France
  4. 4.KinN TherapeuticsBergenNorway
  5. 5.Department of Clinical ScienceUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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